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Wealthy but not wise - a difficult customer at work [Aug. 9th, 2007|07:34 pm]

I had an experience at work today with a difficult customer who demonstrated that wealth and wisdom are two different things. I hope this will give other people even more of a laugh than I had.

Switchboard called me saying that a man was demanding to speak to a Manager, regarding one of the client companies that we service. I explained to switchboard that the manager was off site in a meeting with another of our clients that that I would need to take the call myself.

When the call was put through, the man didn’t even introduce himself. I had to say "hello, can I help you?" three times before he even spoke up. Then he launched into a diatribe about how [the company I work for] had completely messed up his account, and he repeatedly demanded to speak with a Manager. When I explained that the Manager was in a meeting, he grouched "Are you saying that you only have one Manager in your office?" Very patiently I explained that there are many Managers in the office (but not that they were all in meetings themselves) but that each client company has a specific Manager assigned to oversee their accounts. In very colourful language he said what he thought of the company that I work for.

Eventually I managed to endure his swearing long enough to find out that a typing mistake had been made on his account by whomever had entered the details from his application form. He said he’d already telephoned about this, and gave the christian name of the girl he’d spoken with. In an international company employing thousands of people he expected me to know who this person was. On a hunch I asked if this person had been in the Melbourne office (I’m in Sydney) because that’s where most of our data entry takes place, and my hunch proved correct. I explained that they would most likely need to retrieve the original application form in order to validate the correction. His mood then turned from bitterly assertive to fully abusive, demanding to know why the company didn’t have his application form within immediate reach. I explained that with thousands of forms passing through the office it would take an indeterminate amount of time to locate his own. He spoke the name of my company’s Chief Executive Officer, claimed to know him personally, and threatened to write a letter on the matter. I replied that he was welcome to do so, but that he would merely receive a reply telling him that I was following standard procedure.

At this point I explained that I would need to contact the data entry team to rectify the problem, and that I would telephone him back. As if he hadn’t already been petty minded enough, he demanded to know what time I would telephone back. I replied that I couldn’t estimate how long the matter would take to resolve. He repeated his abrasive statements, and again several times demanded to know when I would call him. Then he said he wanted to come into the office in person. I explained that this would not be necessary as we could fix the problem at this end. After I assured him that I would call back, but not at a specific time, he hung up the phone before giving me his number.

I contacted the Melbourne office, spoke with the first staff member to have spoke with this "gentleman" and obtained his phone number. Then I set about communicating with the data entry team.

Unbeknownst to me, he DID come into the office, produced a copy of his holding statement and driver’s licence, made an unnecessary comment that if "Stephan Cottrell were working for me I’d fire him" and then left. I learned of this during my efforts to fix his problem.


Here’s the supreme joke. The original staff member he’d spoken with in Melbourne had diligently gone about her duty, apparently found the original application and fixed the error long before he arrived in the Sydney office. In fact it may even have been shortly after I concluded my phone call.

This imbecile had made an entirely wasted trip into our office. I never ceased to be amazed at how some people think that they will achieve results by abandoning all diplomacy and trying to berate their way through the most simple problems.


[User Picture]From: dhlawrence
2007-08-09 12:14 pm (UTC)
Geez, you'd think that in the corporate world the customers would be a little more even-tempered than in a DIY store...
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[User Picture]From: thefoxaroo
2007-08-09 01:24 pm (UTC)
We get extremes of both; the charming and the downright rude.

Something I only learned earlier this year is that Australian publicly listed companies have a very different approach to the USA or United Kingdom (Canada I've yet to learn about). There's a strong push toward "unsophisticated shareholders" especially old fogies. Companies wanting to raise capital by launching themselves onto the stock market very often make their shares available to their long-term customers before anyone else. The insurance companies are the most frequent perpetrators of this.

The result is a lot of very old people owning shares. Many of them are delightful to speak with, as they're lonely, eager to have someone to speak with and have stories of their lives to tell. But many others are grouchy old bastards whose only thrill in life is to demean and degrade anyone that displeases them.

My role is fairly senior (don't ask me how I reached this position) as I'm client company service designaiton not customer service designation. It would not normally befall me to deal with halfwits like this person today, but it had "escalated" from the call centre. Normally a problem is resolved long before escallation, except that this particular psychopath telephoned all the staff, including me, in rapid succession (within the space of 30 minutes apparently) and ultimately demanded to speak with a manager.

We don't get this often, but there are known troublemakers. One classic head case is a man who has called into the office every few weeks (sometimes twice in the same week) asking for a specific staff member to attend to his petty concerns. That staff member was a junior administrator 20 years ago, but is now the Senior Manager.

On a personal level, my company needs to have more policies in pace to keep these people from tying up resources.
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[User Picture]From: deckardcanine
2007-08-09 04:08 pm (UTC)
Just the other day, I was looking at a site full of anecdotes about people revealing their ignorance and often stupidity to computer tech support (and some vice versa). This incident wouldn't be nearly the most appalling of those if it counted, but it may tie for the most combative. I didn't have the endurance to read all the stories, and I'm afraid I lost the link.
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[User Picture]From: thefoxaroo
2007-08-09 09:00 pm (UTC)
What a pity, I was going to ask for the link.

I may have come across those stories before though. Did the list include a woman who said her computer monitor wasn't working, and then during the phone call she casually mentioned that there was a blackout? Or the dimwit who used a screwdriver to gouge out his floppy disk instead of using the eject button?

Yes, there's plenty of idiots waiting to reveal themselves to the world.
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[User Picture]From: deckardcanine
2007-08-09 09:35 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: thefoxaroo
2007-08-10 03:47 am (UTC)
Hey thanks!

I have several classics of my own to add, mostly from my immediate family:

Circa 1992, when I was still living with my family and didn’t have an income of my own. The hard drive on the family PC had just burned out and without the computer I couldn’t print off my CV or write job application letters. I found a 2nd hand 80mb hard drive for only A$220.00.

He replied “Can’t you just manage from the floppy disks?”


My brother, working as a school teacher in eastern Sydney while I was living on the Central Coast, asked me to fix a problem with his work PC because it was trying to run a defunct application at start up each time.

I said “You’ll need to print the Autoexec.bat and Config.sys files for me to look at. It’s simple, I’ll explain the steps…”

He argued furiously “Can’t you just come in here and take a look at it?”

“Christopher, until the teleporter is invented there’s no way I can visit your school during business hours unless I take a day off, and I don’t have any annual leave. Now all I need you to do is open either Notepad or Microsoft Word and then…”

Blubbering like a bad tempered kid he complained “Oh no, this is too hard. You can’t expect me to do this. There are parents who get their five year old children to set up their VCRs for them, it’s too difficult for old people to learn.”

I cannot possibly be genetically related…


While visiting my family in Taree, my mother asked me to make a brief run out to my cousin in Coffs Harbour (230 kilometres further out, a 2 1/2 hour journey). This is the cousin who had only recently lost her licence for DUI just a few months AFTER coming out of alcohol rehab. I only learned on arrival that the visit was a trick by my control freak mother to conscript me into setting up my cousin’s superb new computer, install all the software and connect it to the internet.

This I accomplished, despite my cousin’s paranoia over the spare cables and odd bits left over in some of the boxes.

Just two days later, she phoned in a frantic state because she’d changed some settings and now her software wasn’t working. Can you imagine how incoherent were her descriptions of the problem? I couldn’t make her understand that without seeing exactly what was on her screen there was nothing I could do. In the end I had to travel all the way out to Coffs Harbour again, for a problem that took five minutes to fix.

To avoid a repeat of the situation, I attempted to show her how to make a screen capture so that she could then E-mail whatever errors appeared on her screen.

“You press the print screen key here. That takes a photograph of whatever you see on the screen. Then you need to paste it into Microsoft Paint.” (her E-mail didn’t support html messages)

I opened MS-Paint, and she completely freaked out. “OH NO!!! This looks too complicated for me.”


I care very much about my grandmother, so I’m almost ashamed to include this one because it’s not her fault that computer technology can be baffling to older generations.

She came to me after watching an advertisement on TV and asked what is “doggie, doggie, doggie?”


“What’s doggie, doggie, doggie?”

I thought for a minute. It seemed to trigger a faint match in my memory, but nevertheless took a few minutes to latch on to.

“Oh!” I replied “You mean WWW.” (World Wide Web - double u, double u, double u).
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[User Picture]From: deckardcanine
2007-08-10 03:40 pm (UTC)
I cannot possibly be genetically related

No kidding. From the sound of it, you're not even the same species. He's a dog, as in "You can't teach an old dog new tricks."
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[User Picture]From: thefoxaroo
2007-08-10 11:41 pm (UTC)
Well, a fox is a dog, but a fox is a far more intelligent animal.

The relationship between my brother and myself is largely the basis for the relationship between Michael Sauerpüss and his adopted brother Sebastian. The line "we're not genetically related" will be used from time to time.

There's still quite a few more months before Sebastian will be introduced though.
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[User Picture]From: thefoxaroo
2007-08-10 03:48 am (UTC)
I have a couple of other good stories from outside my family as well.

While on a short training course there was a student in the class who was fairly bright, but something she did with her mouse would make you think otherwise. She called for my assistance because “the mouse pointer isn’t going the right way.”

I noticed that she was holding her mouse at a 45 degree angle. Little wonder the pointer wasn’t following her movements. I demonstrated to her that the mouse needed to be held the correct way (vertically in relation to the mouse pad).

Five minutes later she had her mouse at 45 degrees again. As before I demonstrated the correct holding position.

Five minutes later…

Then again…

She didn’t pass the final exam.


At the Technical College I attended in the mid 1990s there was a hyper-argumentative student. It was a mistake to offer to help her, and if she asked for help your best bet was to find an excuse to be busy elsewhere.

I first learned this when she asked me to assist her with Microsoft Excel. She said she wanted to expand a cell so that her line of text would fit.

“Here, you left click on the line between columns and drag it to whatever width you want, or you can take a shortcut by double clicking and the column will automatically size to fit your text.”

“No,” She said, “bring the mouse pointer down to the text.”

I did so.

“I want you to drag that cell so that the line is halfway into the next cell. Just that cell there, not the whole column.”

“It doesn’t work that way,” I explained. “You can only change the size of the column, not individual cells. The only other way is to merge the cell with the next one, but then you’d lose any data in the next cell.”

“I’m sure I’ve seen it like that!” She insisted.

She was a nightmare for the teachers. Almost every class she managed to find some amazing way to mess up the PC. On one occasion she had somehow enlarged her tooltips to font size 60, and they were blocking the view when she tried to work.
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[User Picture]From: deckardcanine
2007-08-10 03:47 pm (UTC)
Wehhell. By all means, submit these stories to the website. The first one in this reply would go in either "Amnesia" or "Listen Already!"

BTW, while most of the stupidities don't really sound downright pathological, look at the story at the end of "Amnesia." That could be a case straight out of The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat.
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[User Picture]From: thefoxaroo
2007-08-10 11:59 pm (UTC)
Done! I've sent them in.
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